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We serve our dog’s food in a way that is convenient for us. Drizzle some kibble into the bowl and put it in front of our dogs but by doing that we are actually doing our dogs a disservice!
Humans tend to always find the easiest and fastest solution for things. In some cases that benefits us tremendously but when it comes to feeding our dog we need to stop and think about if the benefit for us also serves our dogs – Is drizzling kibble into a bowl and placing it in front of our dogs, really the best and most beneficial way to feed our dogs?
Dogs, as you probably know, do not run after a clock, they normally have all the time in the world and they would like to work for their food. They appreciate getting the challenge of searching for a treasure and then finally after a lot of sniffing, scratching and looking get the price.
Reasons why dogs would rather search for their food then get it served
One of a dog’s core emotions is the need for seeking. Dogs have a natural urge for seeking. You might have noticed this when you are out walking with your dog and they find a scent to follow and nothing else can distract them until they finally find that yummy hare poop that they must eat.
With seeking comes the expectation and the thrill, just like we feel on Christmas right before opening a present. There is the expectation and excitement of what might be behind the wrapping. The thrill sends a rush of dopamine to our brain, making us feel good. The same thing happens in dogs when their seeking system is activated.
By serving their food in a bowl right in front of them we are taking away the seeking for our dogs. It is like getting an unwrapped present. It is nice but we do not get the thrill of expecting. We do not get that dopamine kick from our brains.
For dogs seeking is essential and if we as humans do not let our dogs seek our dogs become bored and we all know what boredom brings…trouble! Our dogs will start finding other ways to get their need for seeking covered and that might be in ways that we do not particularly appreciate. But we can avoid that by implementing seeking in our way of feeding our dogs, yes you guessed it, by using enriching and mentally stimulating games and toys (Get 30 ideas on how to enrich your dog here).
Activity or enrichment toys forces our dogs to use their brain by seeking for their food. When your dog is mentally stimulated and get to seek you automatically decrease the risk of them developing problem behaviours (Read more here about why mental stimuli is important for your dog or 3 ways to use a Kong toy here).
Enrichment toys also triggers learning, as our dog must learn how to solve a problem before getting the food. By learning to solve a problem by themselves their confidence is boosted, which again can help either eliminate or decrease problem behaviours.
I think it is time to remove your dog’s food bowl and instead replace it with different activity toys and games.
Take the time to feed your dog in fun, mentally stimulating ways and you will probably find that the time you spend enriching is actually gained in the long run, as you end up with a more tired, content dog, that will be less likely to grab your favourite pillow and shred it to pieces to search for that one feather that smelled delicious or who jumps at you non stop out of frustration of not getting their basic needs met.